Veggie Bánh Mì

Written by Marilyn Hawkes Category: Veg Out Issue: July 2016
Group Free

Finding a nice, nourishing vegetarian dish on a restaurant menu can sometimes be a challenge, says Sean Zimmerman, founder of The Upton. After being served a $35 plate of rice and vegetables at an upscale resort in California, Zimmerman took a look at his own menu and realized the vegetarian options were mighty slim. So he and his team put their heads together and cooked up a few new items, including the tofu bánh mì bao bun ($10). 

The bánh mì is filled with firm organic tofu that’s been marinated overnight in house-made char siu sauce, giving it the sweet and spicy flavor and sticky texture associated with Chinese barbecue. Zimmerman serves the toothsome slabs of tofu inside a steamed bao bun folded taco-style, with a crisp vinegar-based slaw fashioned from shoestring cuts of carrots, cucumber and red cabbage. The kitchen also brushes the bun with a feather-light hand-whipped scallion aioli to add another layer to the sandwich. “The intention is that everybody takes a little bit of each flavor, but not too much of any one flavor,” Zimmerman says. 

“Traditionally, the bánh mì is a Vietnamese sandwich served on a baguette with carrot and cucumber slaw,” he continues. Using a bao bun instead of crunchy bread turns a classic on its head, giving the simple vegetarian sandwich “an infusion of cultures.”